April 16, 2018


Back in late 2014 and early 2015, aviation companies like Honeywell were already trying to push limits in terms of efficiency, by introducing the applications of IoT in aviation MRO (Maintenance and Repair Overhauls). A lot has been done and proposed since then, but the major changes in the sphere seem to have started in the past few months.

The growing utility of technologies like Big Data and Artificial Intelligence has opened more possibilities with IoT innovation in aviation, enlarging its role and potential in pressing the concerns of the industry, such as the lack of resource optimization, issues emerging from unforeseen happenings, lack of synchronization, lack of resources at the required places, etc.

Many companies have proposed classic examples on how a better-connected ecosystem in aviation, can lead to more optimized and durable solutions to the prevailing problems. However, issues in terms of connectivity and resources have never allowed these solutions to become anything more than theories.

However, the emergence of Big Data and its processing counterpart AI seems to have revolutionized the search for reliable solutions. The trio of current tech buzzwords (AI, IoT, Big Data Analytics), added with complementary technologies like VR, can actually create more realistic solutions, an example of which has been stated by Richard Goodhead, the senior vice president for marketing at Rolls Royce in a report published by MRO-Network.

…a flight scenario from London to Sydney, with a stopover in Singapore. On the first leg, Rolls could see a ‘strange data characteristic’ coming from a fuel pump. It could ascertain that the signal indeed showed a problem, but also know “the fuel pump only has a few more cycles before it needs to be replaced,” says Goodhead. While the diagnostic piece might not be groundbreaking, supported by the contextual data, it can figure out that the required part is in Singapore. It also could connect a mechanic through virtual reality to its Derby, England, engineers and stream back repair instructions. In this case, Rolls also would know there was enough time to swap the part in Singapore without causing a delay on the second leg. That’s connecting a problem and solutions seamlessly in a new way.”

It’s not just theoretical hypotheses where these technologies are formulating promising solutions. Real-life IoT applications in MRO have reduced Emirate’s cases of unscheduled engine removals by a whopping 56%, with 15% reduction in the overall overhauls.

Another place where these technologies are bringing consistent great results is Honeywell’s GoDirect Connected Maintenance services, where data-driven decisions with APUs (Auxiliary Power Units) and industrial IoT has led to the overall reduction in maintenance expenses while also contributing to a significant enhancement in the customer comfort.

What’s Next?

With such promising prospects, supported by fantastic existing applications, one might wonder why aren’t more aviation companies getting involved with this, and why is the pace of growth in the sphere so slow? The concise answer is inefficient management of data.

It is clear with the way the things are progressing, data is of the utmost significance. Even though only less than 10% of data in aviation is being in use, we need more relevant data to make the best impact. Additionally, the data, or rather the digital data that airlines actually have right now is of little to no consequence. 

Joel Otto, vice president of strategy and business development at Rockwell Collins Information Management Services clarifies the sheer quantity of data sent by aero planes during flight, is of unmanageable proportion and even though some airlines are trying to reduce the amount of transmitted data, the data per aircraft is still going up and the expenses on the management of this data is at a record high.

While we need to optimize the management of the data that we already have, we are still in need of more useful data, which according to Andrew Kemmetmueller, AAR CORP.’s chief digital officer is locked up in three places. The first of these places being the un-digitised data on paper, much of which is under control by Federal Aviation Administration or FAA, second in the ERPs of AAR, and third is in the brains of specialists.

Evidently, IoT and Big Data have just opened the ways for innovation in the aviation industry. More progress is still on the horizon, where things will develop as the technology will be sure to become more ubiquitous and less complex.



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